Student’s Service Builds Community and Camaraderie
Mike Luegering thought he wanted to go to college as far from home as possible. Now, he’s a UC ambassador on weekends and even on holiday breaks through his service with the university and Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity.
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
Mike Luegering got involved with something just before he started his freshman year at the University of Cincinnati and he hasn’t stopped since. The third-year planning student in UC’s top-ranked School of Planning says his service with UC’s Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity project has brought him valuable experience in his field and has led to friendships as strong as the homes he’s been building.
Luegering says it was his acceptance into the prestigious planning program that kept him close to home. The Covington Catholic High School graduate grew up in Lakeside Park in Kentucky and was first considering schools far from home. His connections to campus grew even stronger through his service in the Uptown community. As a first-year student handy with tools, he started volunteering with the UC/Habitat project by guiding freshmen in an Honors English service-learning course as they started work on the 2005-2006 UC/Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity project that led to a new home for Megan O’Malley in Avondale.
“I used to work summer jobs for Messer Construction (one of the UC/Habitat partners) in high school, and they were looking to bring more people in from Messer to help out, so I volunteered,” Luegering says. Now, he estimates he spends three Saturdays per month at the site while construction is underway. During his winter holiday break last year, Luegering joined student volunteers and workers with Valley Interior Systems on a drywall blitz for UC’s 2006-2007 Cincinnati Habitat build that led to the first home for Custodio Muianga, a UC doctoral student in Environmental Health & Occupational Hygiene.
“As the construction progresses, we become a close-knit team and, you can rely on student workers much more as they learn construction skills,” he says. “I look forward to seeing them on a regular basis.”
Luegering adds that his service led to friendships he expects to continue even after he graduates from UC. “Ryan Cowan is another regular volunteer. He’s an electrical engineering major and an all-around skilled craftsman and he has become a very good friend of mine. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up working together down the line.”
Dewey Enderle, a UC alum and senior staff engineer for UC Construction Management, supervises the volunteers as they work on Saturdays, and Luegering calls Enderle “probably one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. He’s the reason I’ve learned as much as I have, because he lets me run with the projects.”
“Students like Mike are what keep the UC/Habitat for Humanity projects going,” Enderle says. “Mike’s out there on a continual basis. It’s hard to find dedication like that. It’s a good feeling to work with someone with such a willingness to learn and to use that knowledge to help others.”
As a Cincinnatus scholarship recipient, Luegering’s service on the UC/Cincinnati Habitat projects stretches beyond the 30 hours of community service per academic year that’s required due to his scholarship commitment, plus, as a planning major, he says the work is building valuable expertise. “A lot of planning students end up working for non-profits or doing side work for non-profits, so this is helping me gain a better understanding of non-profit organizations and their relation to planning.
“Plus, I feel this is giving me a more-rounded college experience. We’re all somewhat residents of the Uptown. Investing time in the community gives you an idea of what’s actually happening here.”
Luegering’s academic experiences at UC also addressed his initial desire to take his learning far from home. He says a summer co-op took him to Greece where he made new friends and learned about planning in an urban environment. He says back when his dad, Mark, was a civil engineering student at UC, Mark’s co-op experience led to a job after graduation with Messer Construction, the company that also hired Mike for summer work, and the company that is a partner with the UC/Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity projects.